photos courtesy of Jean-Marc Blanchard
Steve "Griz" Grzebiniak writes:

"I was the pilot of that Blackbird when we attended the Paris Air Show in '89. [Those photos] sure bring back some good memories.

"The tail number of the Paris blackbird was #967. That also happened to be the favorite aircraft for Jim [Greenwood] and I. We flew a lot of successful missions together in that one. Some of the crews had bad luck with old 967, but she was always a great performer for Jim and I.

"There is a bit of an interesting story as to why we are deplaning onto the roof of some sort of baggage-cart tug. The KC-135Q that preceded us from Mildenhall to Paris, which was carrying our support equipment and personnel, landed a bit long and/or hot on the relatively short, wet runway that day. They suspected they had hot brakes and had to run the checklist for that, which required them to taxi into a safe area and allow the brakes to cool for a specified amount of time.

"Jim and I did a bit of an arrival show in the drizzle, then landed and tried to stall as long as we could, waiting with engines running, till our crew chief could chock us. I forgot who eventually came out to throw the chocks in, but there still was no adequate ladder to deplane.

"After a lot of hand-waving and pointing, we got some French airport worker to drive his tug up close enough so we could egress. It put a damper on our planned salute to the French, (as did the dismal weather) so the photo of Jim and I holding the French flag that we flew in from Mildenhall didn't elicit much of an enthusiastic response from the confused on-lookers."

The "Secret Meeting" at the 1989 Paris Air Show. In the back row, second from the left, is Jim Greenwood; next to him in the blue jumpsuit is CMSgt Glenn; third from the right is Robby Butterfield. In the front row, third from the left, is Steve Grzebiniak. - photo courtesy of Jim Greenwood and Steve Grzebiniak

"We never thought we would get a photo of all of us like this," recalls Steve Grzebiniak.  "The Soviets were very camera-shy during the whole Paris Air Show week. The press was hounding them and us, especially whenever we would get near each other. This little exchange of hospitality was organized in a very secretive manner so as not to tip off the press. Even the Hughes Aviation people were unaware of what we were requesting the use of their conference room for.

"After drinking a couple rounds of shooters and vodka, one of the Soviets took out a camera and politely asked if he could take a couple of photos of the group. We of course agreed, knowing full and well that the Soviet intelligence community already had full dossiers on all of us, including photos. We also took our share of photos and that is what you are looking at now.

"Some pretty heavy hitters in the photo. The guy on the far right of the photo, in the green flight suit is Roman P. Taskaev, a Ministry of Aviation Test Pilot. Standing next to him in the coat and tie is Victor G. Pugachev, the chief test pilot for the Sukhoi Design Bureau. Sitting at the far left, in the lavender shirt is Yevgeny I. Frolov, a Ministry of Aviation Test pilot. Pugachev and Frolov were both flying the (then new) Su-27. I've forgotten which aircraft Taskaev was flying. The stout guy in the middle of the photo in the khakis was a "Frogfoot" ground attack pilot. He also was the most enthusiastic one when it came to his first introduction to tequilla shooters."

Jim Greenwood adds, "Here you see a couple of Habus, Robby Butterfield, a Honeywell Rep, the Mildenhall Fuels Chief, and a couple of other folks that showed up for a hangar flying session and hooks, tequila and vodka. If I had to guess, I'd say there might be a Frogfoot pilot and navigator, a couple of "unknown Russian test pilots", a Mig 29 test pilot (not the one who parachuted to sfety at the show, he was still under medical care), an Su-27 test pilot, and an Aeroflot navigator. After sharing one each bottle of tequila and vodka "hooks", we traded unopened bottles of tequila and vodka with our respective signatures on them. We're still in search of the vodka bottle with the Russian signatures on them."


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